Archive for the ‘Upper Peninsula’ category

If there was a UP Basketball All Star Weekend…

February 17, 2014

The NBA All Star Weekend just finished up and I was thinking to myself, “What if I did a UP All Star game with the current girls and boys basketball players?” So I got together a list of players and made an East/West roster with the central UP players being divided up to make it a little more even. This is purely subjective and no feelings were meant to be hurt when I created these rosters and events. Enjoy and keep balling out on the hardwood. Prove me wrong…


Jared Purcell |

Jared Purcell |



G Tyler Jandron – Negaunee

Leader with ball in hand, extremely crafty, and shot creator. Pure scorer with very quick ball handling skills.–

G Larry Burnette – Marquette

–Pure slasher/scorer. Spreads the floor and does a good job finishing at the rim. Succeeding for Redmen in hot start.–

F Brandon Robinette – Escanaba

Pure scorer inside and out. Knows what his job is in the offense and controls the glass on both ends.–

F Rob Granquist – North Central

–Big part of Jets success last year and this year. Finishes at the rim and finds contact to get to the foul line. Communicates well and one of the leaders in huddle for Jets.–

C Alex Briones – Ishpeming

Not only a football star. Found success in basketball season due to success on the glass. Uses big frame to his advantage getting to the rim and finding his own shot in the offense.–


G Devon Harris – Menominee

Speed kills. Fastest players on the floor. Flashy guard with big play potential.–

G Andy Nyquist – Marquette

All around basketball player. Wants to fill up stat sheets and box scores with play. A winner.–

F Ben Stasewich – Munising

–Long and athletic. Uses height to advantage in scoring and rebounding categories. Anchor of the Mustangs defense.–

G Justin Luke – Westwood

–Scorer for the Patriots all season long. Cleans up the glass on defensive and offensive end. Big motor that doesn’t slow down.

F Travis Vincent – North Central

Hard to guard in the post. Knows how to use both hands at the rim. Moves very well without the ball and can show off the vertical when he wants.–

G Eric Lori – Negaunee

Solid in every sense of the word. Solid Point Guard, Solid scorer, solid defender, solid leader, just solid.–

F Evan Winklebauer – Mid Pen

–Total sleeper coming from Rock. Can do everything (shoot, rebound, pass, defend). He learned well from Brett Branstrom last year and showing it on the floor this season. —

F Jason Whitens- North Central

–Young, athletic, hectic, powerful. Those are all the words to describe this Jet. Having a very good season in Powers.–

G Austin Snell – Forest Park

–The Senior just finds a way to win. He scores, he defends, he leads. He is a hard nosed, tough-minded kid who wants to beat you on any playing surface. As tough as they get.–

Extra Reserve F Owen Devought – Gwinn

–Owen is a pure scrapper. Scraps up lose balls, puts back offensive boards, and makes layups when teammates find him. Uses big frame to his advantage inside the paint.–


Photo by Grandpa Camo

Photo by Grandpa Camo


G Trent Keteri – Houghton

–Crafty guard who is a rhythm shooter. When he is hot, he is hot. Finds ways to lead team back to victory on offense and has such a quick release. Very tough to guard.–

G Alex Outinen – Jeffers

–One word, consistent. Knows how to fill up the box score with points and has a nice arc on his shot from the outside. Really good player that many coaches would want to have.–

F Paul Torola- Calumet

–For Paul, it’s dynamic. Can shoot, can slash, can fill up the box score in bunches. Even with multiple defenders, he slices and dices them to finish what he wants to do on offense. Scores 20 easily and 30 can happen often in Calumet–

F Adam Mackey – Ironwood

Tough kid. Plays through contact and is physical with defenders. Scores from the low block and perimeter.  When he gets it going, he is red hot for the Red Devils.–

C Alex Almquist – Hancock

–Was a shooter his first few years but has found the use for his big body this season. Just can use his length to grab rebounds and go up strong with the rock to get to the line. Knows how to convert on the line with very nice touch and I can’t wait to see him in black and gold at Michigan Tech next season.–


F Kyle Klieman – Bark River-Harris

–Long, athletic, and essential for Broncos this season. Many double-doubles and can put up double figures quickly.

F Jimmy Veeker – L’Anse

–Quick and fast without the basketball. Very good hands finishing at the rim. Outside shot in his arsenal of moves which makes him a threat to guard on the perimeter.–

G Ryan Laberge – L’Anse

–Floor General. Excellent passer, very good ball handler, and nice step back jumper with range. Ryan is the complete package for the Purple Hornets. He is a very unselfish player and it shows.–

G Tyler Roose – Lake Linden-Hubbell

–Another scorer/slasher in the Copper Country. Fills it up from the outside with ease and works on his jumper consistently. Love the range on this kid and his stroke is effortless.–

G Cole Potvin – Big Bay de Noc

–Cole Potvin is a scoring point guard with very good defensive feet. He scores in double figure on a regular basis and a team leader who works hard in the gym to get better.–

F Lane Brown – Ewen Trout-Creek

–Leading scorer for the Panthers who continue to works hard in the gym. Had a big 26 points and 20 rebound effort vs. Ontonagon this season. Big time athlete taking over for Dillon Gordon who is now at Michigan Tech.–

G Kevin Lane/Tyler Cole – Wakefield-Marenisco

–This is a toss up. Both can score. You want both on your team, so you will have decide who you want more. Both can score 20 + points together on a nightly basis. Really hard to take both out of the equation for the Cardinals. —

F Dionte Blahnik – Carney-Nadeau

I think Dionte saw how hard Brett Branstrom worked at Mid-Pen last season and brought it into this season for the Wolves. Double-Double machine who does more than just score at the basket. He rebounds, defends at a very high level, and enters passing lanes. Really good overall player that you should continue to keep your eye on.–

F Jake Pearson – Rapid River

–Football star like Briones who brings total toughness to the basketball court. Rapid River may lack depth but the effort this team puts in is hard to overlook. Pearson is a strong athlete and teammate.–

Extra Reserve: F Nate Gockenbach

Houghton’s #2 or 2.5 scorer this season. Does everything well inside and runs the floor well. He and Keteri have been a good 1-2 punch up in the Copper Country.–



Photo by Grandpa Camo

Photo by Grandpa Camo



G Hunter Viitala – Marquette

–Only a junior but plays like a senior or college freshman. Sweet girl off the court but tough as nails on the floor. There is no flaw in her game. Plays both offense and defense with passion which will translate to the next level easily. Her future is bright.–

G Jessica Spencer – Ishpeming

She is having herself a fine season. Consistently in double figures and has been leading Ishpeming to 12-5 record. Huge heart with a winners mentality. I would want her on my team.–

F Kelley Wright – St. Ignace

State Champ. Going to play at Youngstown State next year. Really long and athletic with great hands. Can score with or without the basketball and is a pleasure to watch.–

F Vanessa Freeberg – Superior Central

Softest hands in the UP around the rim. When she gets position in the block and her teammates find her, points are coming. She scores at will and has a good motor on the defensive glass tracking down rebounds.–

C Michele LaFave – Escanaba

–Makes double-double’s look easy. She has put up multiple 30+ point and 15+ rebound games as a Junior. So much time for her to dominate as an Eskymo. Real pleasure to watch in Escanaba for the future.–


F Frankie Mattson – Munising

–A freshman that plays like a senior. Were 12-4 at one point in season. Played through pain which speaks about her toughness. The game has come simple to her. Imagine her as a senior in black and orange. One word, buckets.–

F – Caitlyn Frazer – Bark River-Harris

–Really talented big for Broncos. She has good hands around the rim offensively and defensively and anchors the defense in the paint. Long arms help her get easy looks and rebounds.–

F Lexi Hongisto – Gladstone

–Tough girl who would dive for every lose ball. Very aggressive player which makes her one of the best Braves on the floor.–

G Hunter Branstrom – Mid Peninsula

Part of the Branstrom core at Mid Pen. Good point guard who is a floor general for the Wolverines. Can score if she wants or find teammates. Makes smart decisions with the rock in her hand.–

G Tiffany Wangerin – Stephenson

–Recent 1,000 point scorer for the Eagles. Really makes the defense work and scoring comes easy for her. Her motor never stops and she never gives up. 20 points has been a norm this season.–

G Lyndsey Collins – Escanaba

–The second punch for Escanaba. Very good guard who helps when Michele Lafave gets all the attention. Can score in the lane and stroke it from the outside. Continues to play at a high level each night.–

F Destiny Beckwith – Marquette

Has developed into Marquette’s key player in this recent stretch. Over the past month, she has scored in double figures regularly with Hunter Viitala. Has improved from December a lot and deserves a spot on this list.–

F Morgan Eichorn – Carney-Nadeau

–A Wolve who can score and play defense. Plays well in the system and can take over games with her playmaking.–

Extra Reserve:  Teslyn Tyner- Superior Central

–Really tough girl who has up and down games but the reason she is an all star is because she can shoot from the outside and drive with the basketball in her hand to convert at the rim. Her toughness and energy are hard to find in student athletes in this day and age.–




G Madi Swanson – L’Anse

Future Lake Superior State Guard. So quick, so smart with the basketball, and can pick pockets better than most guards. She’s a floor general I would want to have start every game.–

G Lexie Rowe- Calumet

–One word, Fun. It is fun to watch Lexie Rowe play basketball. She is upbeat all the time and she plays like the energizer bunny until that final horn sounds. She’s worth seeing in the Copper Country.–

F Elisa Jurmu – Houghton

–Elisa is an undersized post player who uses her hands and quick feet to her advantage in games. She scores at the rim very well and converts at the line consistently each game. She’s a gamer.–

F Julia Daavatilla – Dollar Bay

–Every night, it seems like she has been putting up 20+ scoring. Dollar Bay is CCC champs this season and it seems like she has gone above and beyond to make it happen. Well deserved for this girl and this team.–

C Lexi Gussert – Forest Park

–Future Spartan at Michigan State who is the all time leading scorer in the Upper Peninsula but is top 5 best teammate in the whole area. She passes the ball to her team and she really doesn’t know at times how good she actually is. She is as humble and honest as it gets. That’s the making of a super star.–


G Brooke Turin – Ontonagon

–One of the leading scorers for this Gladiators team that has had success this season compared to other years.  Just hit a clutch 3 a few days ago to beat Baraga. She’s risen to this level.—

F Haley Makela – Jeffers

–High motor and high energy player who controls the paint and the glass. Starting and finishing games for Jets all season. Seems to be in double figures and leading the box score each night.–

G Michaela Burke – Watersmeet

–Sister Marissa plays at Finlandia and she really plays well for the Nimrods. She can shoot from outside, scoring in double figures. Just last week she has 22 points and made 6 of the team’s 7 three point shots.–

G Niemi (Taylor or Molly) – Ewen Trout-Creek

The Niemi sisters own Ewen Trout-Creek girls hoops these days. Both are efficient scorers and passers who play on the floor at the same time. To me, they come as a pair. If you want one, you have to have both.–

F – Kelsey Richards – Houghton

–Really the second scoring option in Houghton. She has proven to hit the outside shot effectively but also is a double-double machine. Seems to have 12 pts and 10 reb a night. Really improving as the Gremlins push to get back to the Breslin.–

F Morgan Wells – North Central

–Just had a 26 point 15 rebound night the other night. Enough said.–

G Morgan DuPont – Carney Nadeau

–Another Wolves scorer who makes the list. She seems to find double figures every game and when she gets in a rhythm, they seem to fall easily. Not to mention, she always finishes in top 5 during cross country season. She’s fast.–

F Maija Sebbas– Hancock

–Huge piece to Hancock’s puzzle this season. Constant threat for double figures. Only a freshman and continues to grow in a tough WestPAC Conference.

Extra Reserve: G Maddy Anderla/Allia Stewart – Menominee

Both average 7 points a game and both are a big reason to why Menominee is doing well up to this point. If you combine their numbers together it gives you 14 which makes them valuable.


Photo by Grandpa Camo

Photo by Grandpa Camo

Boys Snubs

F Zane Radloff – Negaunee

–Close on my list but can’t find consistent scoring nights with Lori and Jandron seeing most touches. Huge on the offensive and defensive glass which makes him an X-Factor for Miners.–

G Kennan Lampinen – Carney Nadeau

–A scorer who goes through funks sometimes. Can light up the box score with 30 on some nights which is key for the Wolves but I think Dionte provides a dual threat for Carney.–

F Ben Kleiman – Escanaba

–Solid scorer with good rebounding numbers but just misses the cut. Great #2 punch to Brandon Robinette.–

G Bradley Brow – Marquette

–Another X-Factor for Marquette going into March. He is another Nyquist type guard who does everything on the floor. Solid role player for Redmen.–

G Austin Grayvold – Norway

–Star Potential who gets star attention in games. In playoffs last year, he just shinned. This year he has played well but has had his ups and downs. Once districts come, you’ll see Austin explode. —


Photo by Grandpa Camo

Photo by Grandpa Camo

Girls Snubs

G Kelsey Ross – L’Anse

–One of the nicest left handed shots in the UP. Just seems to be streaky at time but when she gets hot like she did a few weeks ago with 17,19, and 23 point games, she becomes unstoppable.–

G Abby Sutherland – Lake Linden-Hubbell

–Extremely talented girl. Really athletic player who takes it to the lane strong. With such depth for the Lakes this season, her numbers fluctuate but that doesn’t show how valuable she is for her team.

G Melissa Putala – Baraga

–Last few weeks, this girl has stepped up and shown she can play at a high level. Plus, her team is winning too. She needs to prove she can score 14-15 points a night and she is next to rise to the top.–

F Megan Miatech – West Iron County

–Strongest girl in the paint. She can control games on the glass and on the defensive end altering shots. Just had 20 points against Calumet. Needs to continue that production to be added up the list.

G Abby Domitrovich – Ontonagon

–Big time shooter who has made many triples this season. Scores in double figures with Brooke Turin and she could be easily added up on the list if she adds just a little consistency.–


Boys Skills Competition

Eric Lori

Tyler Jandron

Ryan Laberge

Andy Nyquist

Austin Grayvold

Girls Skills Competition

Hunter Viitala

Lexi Gussert

Madi Swanson

Lexi Rowe


Boys 3 Point Shootout

Trent Keteri

Mitch Borseth – Ontonagon

Evan Winkelbauer

Tyler Jandron

Girls 3 Point Shootout

Kelsey Ross

Lexi Gussert

Abby Domitrovich

Michaela Burke


Photo by Jack Hall of

Photo by Jack Hall of

Boys Dunk Contest – Would love to see Jets Ekberg fly in this contest

Larry Burnette

Dionte Blahnik

Alex Almquist

Vejas Grazulis -Marquette

Travis Vincent

Trevor Ekberg – North Central

Jimmy Veeker

Rand Hruska Photo

Rand Hruska Photo

Girls Dunk Contest

Lexi Gussert

–Can she dunk? I haven’t seen it but I always feel like she could.–

Kirsten Iwanski- Marquette

–Big and Physical. I think she could throw it down with two hands.–

Amanda Pederson – Menominee

–Really nice girl and she looks like the type who could dunk. She looks the part.–

Sydney Dillinger- Houghton

–She has the long wing span who looks like she can do some sweet dunks.–

Rosalie/Adena Anderson – Negaunee

–These girls are awesome. I add them because it would be so cool to see them dunk.–

Liz Charlevoix – North Dickinson

She looks the part. She has all the flare and spice you want in basketball. Definitely feel she could be a high flyer at the rim–

Photo of the Week: Ishpeming wins 2nd straight State Football Championship

December 2, 2013
(Photo by Grandpa Camo)

(Photo by Grandpa Camo)

…Ishpeming Hematites are about one word, Heart. This city, this town, and this football team has so much character and respect for one another. Last year was about David and Goliath, this year the story was already written and Ishpeming was destined to win. These players play their butts off for Coach Olson and the High School they represent. Winning a state title one year is awesome, but celebrating back-to-back state titles is special. That’s what the UP and the city of Ishpeming is, “a special place.” UP Power is not a slogan or a saying, it’s a way of life…

Top 31 Moments in the UP! #20 – Football Practice at Westwood and Kingsford

October 8, 2013
Photo by Steve Brownlee

Photo by Steve Brownlee

High School Football in the Upper Peninsula is the popular sport and when the practice season kicks off, the fans and the players get excited for another season.

After working a long night on the weekend, it got even longer but it was worth everything I had ever imagined. Westwood High School had it’s annual midnight practice that Monday morning and I went to the high school to get some footage and talk to the coaches and players. It was wet and soggy but it got my photographer juices going and I was able to use a lot of new techniques to enhance the video for the viewer at home and get a closer look. The players had never seen a camera guy get close and personal with the action but they appreciated it afterwards with all the tight shots and different angles when watching it.

Coming out of that practice, I felt pretty good about shooting another one. I went to Kingsford High School one day and I shot the Flivvers practice and my camera work got better. The emotional shots I got, the tight shots of the football and the players completing the drills were crisp and fast. I even got my foot caught under the lineman bull rush machine. It hurt, but it was well worth it. The video even has over 1,000 views on YouTube.

One of the best shots I ever got was the first 4 seconds of Kingsford practice. The player is looking straight at my camera and is waiting on the snap count to finish the drill. When the coach said hike, I zoomed out fast and got the players running under the lineman bars to complete the drill. The emotion I captured in those 4 seconds is breathtaking and is one of the best pieces of photography I have ever captured. It was like you could see through the players eyes and understand what he was feeling at that moment. Video like that is hard to get and watching it in the editing booth but a smile on my face.

I am so proud of that moment and those two days of shooting football practice because it turned me into an excellent cameraman who could shoot and edit like a true professional. I will always remember those practices, they were awesome.

Top 31 Moments in the UP! #22 – Remarkable catch caught on camera!

September 3, 2013
(Photo By Grandpa Camo)

(Photo By Grandpa Camo)

Being a camera man and shooting at any sporting event is fun. But shooting High school football is a real treat. When I first started out shooting with the big, Panasonic DVC Pro Tape camera it was tough to follow the football through the air. But after a while, I truly got the hang of it and captured one of the more remarkable catches I have ever seen through a lens.

Ishpeming was playing Pewamo-Westphalia in the Division 7 Semifinal game at the Superior Dome with the hopes of traveling to Ford Field for a chance at the state title. But the Hematites had to go to through the Pirates first on November 17, 2012. The Hematites pulled out the victory 8-7 thanks to some great defense but that wasn’t the key memory for me. The memory was capturing the Pirates only touchdown.

In the first quarter, from the Pirates own four yard line, junior quarterback Kyle Nurenberg fired a pass which deflected off Ishpeming’s Tyrus Millimaki and into the hands of 6-foot-6 junior wide receiver Lane Simon for a 94-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. While Simon was streaking down the sideline, I got run over by the team cheering and jumping all over the place. I was cheering inside too because I was able to capture that amazing play on tape which is so hard to do in this industry.

During halftime, my colleague at the time Mike Ludlum said, “Did you get the touchdown?” I said, “I sure did. Perfectly!” Even our competition didn’t get the catch on camera. That was an awesome feeling!

I still watch the play from time to time just to remind myself how much I love shooting football and how I am proud of what I do for a living. Capturing that one moment may not be the difference in the world for the Ishpeming faithful, but I know people from downstate sure appreciated the great camera work I displayed that day on the sideline.

Check out the highlight below!



Top 31 Moments in the UP! #23 – Watch out for Lexi Gussert!

September 3, 2013
lexi guss vol

(Photo by Grandpa Camo)

Being a sports anchor and reporter in the Upper Peninsula means you have to shoot and edit your own highlights for the evening newscasts. That means getting in a TV 6 vehicle and driving to many schools on different days. Well on November 6th, the day after election day, I went to cover some regional playoff volleyball action in Kingsford and Iron Mountain. This was the day I got to see Lexi Gussert do work on the court. People kept telling me she was amazing at basketball and was very good at volleyball too. I had to learn the hard way.

In the second set against Lake Linden-Hubbell, Lexi went up for the kill and slammed it right into the hardwood floor towards me. Now the ball had so much spin that when I looked in my viewfinder, I had two options. (1. Look like a fool and get hit. or 2. Try to get out of the way and look like a fool.) I choose number 1 and well the crowd knew my consequences. Everyone in the crowd was laughing, including myself, and I posted the video on YouTube for everyone to see. There are few things you don’t forget and this was one of them. Lexi got me good and she still has another season to get another cameraman out there.

Top 31 Moments in the UP! #24 – Crash on the Track

August 20, 2013

sampleIt’s been a while since I have continued the countdown and it feels good to update everyone with number 24 on the list. Racing of all kinds is a big sport in the Upper Peninsula and one of the local hot spots to go on a Saturday afternoon is Sands Speedway in Sands, MI.

This asphalt race track may be small to a lot of people but the drivers can sure tear up some rubber and speed. The season begins in late May and runs until the end of August. The track holds races for four different types of models (Super Stock, Late Model, Pure Stock, and Mod 4) to earn a chance at winning cash prizes on heat and feature races. For more Information on the track and the recent results, click here.

So now that you know all about the cars and the track, let me bring you back to September 1st 2012. It was the last day of racing at the track and the last feature race of the day. Let me put it this way, this was for all the marbles. It was the Super Stock feature race that had 16 cars on the track and it ended up being a good one.

One lap around,  the cars are managing well around turns and are fighting for position but the second lap took a turn for the worst. As the stakes got hot, the cars got too close to each other and that’s when the crash happened (You can watch it on the highlights down below). One of the cars in front spun out which caused the #7 car of Terry Royer to end up on top of #84 car Darryl Wirkula’s car that caused complete chaos for the rest of the drivers. Terry would continue the race after a big deal but Daryl’s car was completely totaled and he had to exit. The good news for Daryl was that he was okay and did not suffer any injuries.

Later in the race, Darryl Britton lost the hood of his car and was still fighting for a top 5 finish. But Todd Yelle and Britton were neck and neck coming around a turn with only a few laps left in the race and Yelle lost control of his vehicle on the outside and then he took a tight turn around the bend and knocked into Darryl’s car taking off his front bumper which forced him to exit the race without a finish. That was insane! Two different crashes, in one race, on one day, is unheard of! In the end, Todd Yelle would end up taking home the money with a first place finish.

7-31-2012-6-37-36-AM-1252191I have never been to a NASCAR race and I have never been to a race where there was a big collision. That night I was excited to go to the race track because I knew there was money on the line and that would make for good finishes toward the checkered flag. But I didn’t expect this to happen. I was so shocked when it happened I just kept my camera on the scene so I didn’t miss any of it.

That’s what makes sports so great. You never know what is going to happen on any given day and with my luck I got to see something not every sports fan gets to see at the track.

I am going to stick that one in the memory book and tell everyone about that crazy day at the track for a long time to come.

Photo of the Day: Gatorade Shower for the Flivvers

July 23, 2013


Just found this picture in my gallery from the UP Tennis Finals at Marquette Senior High School this afternoon. The picture says the whole story here. The Flivvers took home the UP Tennis Team Title with 21 points and head coach Mark Shanks gets the celebratory shower from his team after a great team victory. The kids were planning this type of celebration the whole day and it was a hot day in Marquette so it was nice for Mr. Shanks to take a shower a little early…